“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Traditionally the freedom of speech granted by the first amendment is thought of as the right to express yourself without being arrested for your viewpoint, but does it also protect you from being forced to express a viewpoint you don’t agree with? Some examples.
Could the government force you to:
- Do a public service announcement telling kids not to smoke?
- Take wedding photos for a gay marriage? Paint their portrait? Does it have to look good?
- Decry the holocaust in your blog post about the SS?
- Swear on a bible to tell the truth?
- Pledge allegiance to the flag? Complete with Under God?
- Photograph an equal number of women and men for your book on sumo wrestlers?
The constitution was drafted as a document to protect the few from the majority and the weak from the powerful.
If the government can force you express yourself in one way, chances are good that they will claim the right to do so in the others. For speech to be truly free, it cannot be coerced, however it would make our legal system more difficult if no one could be forced into incriminating others. The problem with the grey area in between is that those in power inexorably pull the greyscale towards their own desired ends, and the will of the people to defend the rights of those they disagree with often falters, especially in light of the uphill battle fighting the powers-that-be always entails.